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Two Butler County schools fall below the mark

Two Butler County schools have fallen from the rank of academic clear.

Last year, all Butler County schools were classified academic clear for the first time since the State of Alabama Department of Education began its accountability testing. The Butler County school district remained academic clear, based on the results of the 2001 Stanford Achievement Test (SAT), Ninth Edition, released by the Alabama State Board of Education on Thursday.

Georgiana High School and Greenville High School have been placed on the list of academic caution after a majority of student scores on the SAT fell below the 40th percentile. In 2000, Greenville High School jumped from Alert 2 status, or one step away from being taken over by the state, to academic clear.

"We are appealing the score. We want them to rescore the tests because our scores are showing otherwise," said Butler County School Board Superintendent Dr. Mike Reed. "Because the scores are so close, we are asking the State Superintendent of Education to re-evaluate because one student's score could make all the difference. However, we will be looking very closely at the data as well as our curriculum to make adjustments."

A school or school system is classified as academic clear if a majority of the students score at the 40th percentile or above. Ninety-seven percent, or 124 out of 128, school systems are classified as Academic clear, and 90 percent, or 1,156 out of 1,282 schools participating in the Stanford 9, are classified as Academic clear, according to the report.

A school or school system is classified as academic caution if a majority of its students score below the 40th percentile, or a system is classified as academic caution if the majority of the system's schools score in Academic caution or Academic Alert. For 2001, one school system and 68 schools are classified as Academic caution.

"I want to congratulate the students and the teachers that worked hard to make this year a success," said Gov. Don Siegelman. "Alabama has been recognized for having one of the toughest accountability systems in the country. Each year, we improve our performance on these tough standards. But we must continue working to ensure that every Alabama child has an opportunity for success."

In 2001, the percentage of academic clear schools and school systems has increased while the percentage of Academic Alert and Caution schools and school systems decreased, according to the report.

Ed Richardson, state superintendent of education, said: "We are all very pleased with the results of those schools that worked so hard to move out of Alert 3. I am very proud of the students, teachers, parents, and the specialists brought in by the state Department of Education who made this work." Additionally, he stated, "We learned many valuable lessons working with Litchfield during its first year of intervention. We were able to apply that information to the other schools, which helped move them forward more quickly than might have been anticipated."

The Stanford 9 was administered to 473,142 Alabama public school students in Grades 3-11 in April. Results released today indicate that for the second year in a row, total scores for all nine grades tested, including special education students, were at or above the national average of 50. In addition, average percentiles across Grades 3-11, including special education students, are above the national average in all subjects except reading, which is at the 49th percentile. The state's average percentile scores are three to four points higher in subjects when special education students' scores are excluded, according to the report.

State Board of Education Vice President Dr. Ethel Hall said, "We are all very proud of the effort of our students, teachers and administrators and everyone knows we still have much work to do, especially in the area of reading. I am confident programs like the Alabama Reading Initiative, will begin to show a positive impact in the years to come."

This is the sixth consecutive year that Alabama students in Grades 3-11 have taken the Stanford 9 and the resulting scores used for school and school system accountability. Schools and school systems earn classifications based on their performance on the test.

Based on recommendations of the Southern Regional Education Board, the state Board of Education is currently reviewing its assessment and accountability methods. The board will act on that information in 2002. An interim assessment and accountability plan will take effect at the beginning of the 2001 school year. New regulations mandated by the federal government will have an effect on the way students are tested in the future.

"There has to be some measure of accountability. Whether it is the Stanford, or some other method, remains to be seen. Obviously, we want to help schools avoid intervention, but the bottom line is that we must ensure our students can compete with others from around the nation and the world," said Richardson. "This year's results prove accountability works and can help improve student performance in struggling schools. The state Board of Education will continue to work toward our goal that every Alabama public school student has the opportunity to receive a quality education."